Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Drug prices rose three times faster than inflation in the US

Drug prices have risen three times faster than inflation over the last 10 years in the United States according to a new study published in JAMA. The study focused on prescription drugs.
As Inmaculada Hernandez, the main author of the study, explains, previously other studies had only studied list prices, prices that do not take into account possible discounts from manufacturers. This is the first study, according to Hernandez, which takes these discounts into account and which indicates net price trends.

The study focused on 602 drugs whose prices were calculated from 2007 to 2018. Adjusted for inflation, prices increased by 159%. Thus, taking into account discounts, various coupons and supply, which are very common features of medicines in the United States, prices of medicines increased by 60%, or 3.5 times overall inflation.
It was only around 2015 that net prices began to stabilize, which does not mean an automatic lowering or levelling off of drug costs for people.

“We are seeing a lot of discussion about whether net prices have stabilized in recent years, and this seems to be the case,” said Walid Gellad, senior author of the study and professor of medicine and health policy at the University of Pittsburgh. “But the stabilization of net prices adds to the large increases of the last decade, many times faster than inflation, for products that have not changed during this period. Moreover, this net price is an average, with considerable variability between payers and medicines”.

Everlywell

Is Everlywell a legitimate company? That’s the question we’re trying to find out, and we’ll see if we can answer it. First off, while our style is to report on science news and research, the problem when it comes to Everlywell is that there is no independent study on it. All we have is reports from customers (many of which are negative, and many are positive) and anecdotal evidence.

As taken from this review here and this well researched article from statnews, the evidence for Everlywell does not appear to be particularly strong right now.

Dietary drinks consumed with carbohydrate-rich meals can have adverse effects

Studies on artificial sweeteners have often been contradictory, particularly with regard to the influence these substances can have on the brain but also on a metabolism team in general.
For example, some studies have shown that they can have negative effects on blood sugar levels and insulin, unlike other studies that have refuted these approaches.
In a new study, which appeared in Cell Metabolism, a team of researchers said that these discrepancies could be due to the fact that it was not considered together with what sweeteners, often used in diet drinks as a sugar substitute, are consumed.

“When we started doing this study, the question that prompted us was whether repeated consumption of an artificial sweetener would lead to a degradation in the predictive ability of sweet taste,” reports Dana Small, a neuroscientist and professor of psychiatry and director of Yale University’s Centre for Research on Diet and Modern Physiology. “This is important because the perception of sweet taste may lose the ability to regulate metabolic responses that prepare the body for glucose or carbohydrate metabolism in general.

This is why the researcher, together with her colleagues, analysed the effects of sweeteners on 45 volunteers aged between 20 and 45 who were not in the habit of consuming these sweeteners. People had no metabolic functions and a healthy weight.
Patients were allowed to consume fruit-flavoured sweet drinks with sucralose or table sugar for two weeks. There was then a control group whose components drank drinks with sucralose plus maltodextrin, a non-sweet carbohydrate.

The analysis, which also included brain scans to examine any changes in the brain in response to sweet tastes, showed that the subjects in the control group showed changes in the brain’s response to sweet taste and insulin sensitivity in the body as well as glucose metabolism. As a result of these results, the researchers added an additional control group whose participants had to drink for seven days drinks containing only maltodextrin.
The researchers found no evidence that the consumption of drinks with maltodextrin altered insulin sensitivity and the level of glucose metabolism.

“Perhaps the effect was derived from the intestine, which generated inaccurate messages to the brain about the number of calories present,” says Small. “The intestine would be sensitive to sucralose and maltodextrin and would report that twice as many calories are available than are actually present. Over time, these erroneous messages could produce negative effects by altering the way the brain and body respond to sweet taste.”

According to the researcher, you can drink a Diet Coke from time to time but its consumption should not be parallel to the consumption of something with a lot of carbohydrates: “If you’re eating chips, you’d better drink a Coke or better still water”.

In essence, drinking diet drinks, i.e. those with artificial sweeteners instead of the classic ones with normal sugars, together with carbohydrate-rich meals can damage the way the body metabolizes sugar and therefore paradoxically can lead to weight gain. So it is not the sweeteners themselves that are bad for you, but it is the combination with a carbohydrate-rich meal that can create problems.
However, the researcher says that these effects should be better analysed, especially if further experiments are carried out on mice.

Estradiol intake in time after menopause may benefit the arteries according to study

According to an interesting study on estradiol intake, if estradiol is taken within six years of menopause, real benefits can be obtained to combat atherosclerosis and other pathologies such as the accumulation of plaque in the walls of the arteries. However, if the intake of the same oestradiol begins 10 years after the onset of menopause, there are no equal benefits.

The preliminary research was presented during a session of the American Heart Association 2020. The main author of the study is Roksana Karim, professor of preventive clinical medicine at the University of Southern California Medical School, Los Angeles.
According to the researcher, the results she obtained from her study show that taking oestradiol in time during menopause can help reduce atherosclerosis and reduce cholesterol buildup in the veins.
Atherosclerosis is one of the most common diseases that cause heart disease and its main feature is the accumulation of cholesterol in the walls of the veins.

To arrive at these results, the researcher carried out a study on 643 healthy post-menopausal women. The latter were divided into four groups: the first and second group consisted of women who received 1 mg of estradiol per day (first group) or a placebo pill (second group) within six years of the onset of menopause.
The members of the other two groups took the same thing (oestradiol for the third group and placebo pill for the fourth group) but 10 years or more after the onset of menopause. All components took either estradiol or the placebo pill every day for an average of five years.

In the end, the researchers found that the rate of advancement of atherosclerosis among the members of the first group was half as low as the women in the first group who took the placebo pill.
They also found that oestradiol had no effect in women in the second group, i.e. those who had started taking oestradiol 10 years or more after the onset of menopause. Patients in the third and fourth groups saw atherosclerosis progress in a similar way.

These results “show that starting oestradiol immediately after the onset of menopause may result in lower cholesterol deposition in the arteries than women who start [taking] oestradiol much later,” Karim reports.

Scientists discover that protein that defends against infections also regulates mitochondrial function

According to a new study published in Nature Communications, a protein, already known because it helps cells defend themselves against viruses, which is part of a group of proteins resistant to mixovirus (myxovirus-resistance, Mx), can also regulate the shape and function of mitochondria, a section of cells that contain the genetic material called “mitochondrial DNA”: this is the discovery made by a team of researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

This protein supports cells to fight infections without the use of antibodies or white blood cells. According to the authors, one of these proteins, MxB, associated with immune responses to HIV and herpes virus, can be considered as the key to mitochondrial support.
The researchers found that MxB is found in most immune tissues, such as tonsils, before a “red alert”.
Without this protein, mitochondria can no longer be functional, no longer produce the necessary energy and expel the DNA genome by rejecting it into the cytoplasm.

Mark McNiven, biologist and author sign of the study, explains the results: “Our work provides new insights into how this dynamic MxB protein helps fight viral infections, which could have important implications for health in the future.
“We were surprised to see MxB present and inside the mitochondria,” says Hong Cao, researcher at the Mayo Clinic and first author. “That it is induced in response to infection and vital to mitochondrial integrity is exciting, considering that HIV and herpes alter mitochondria during infection.”